Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guests the Teacher-Librarian Heidi Rikard and Library Assistant, D’Arcy Rowe. Heidi and D’Arcy work at West Valley Junior High in Yakima, Washington.
Heidi and D’Arcy St. Louis
Tell us About Yourselves
Heidi: I am the teacher-librarian at West Valley Junior High in Yakima, WA. This is my 3rd year as TL here in WV. Before I came here I was a language arts teacher for 11 years. I spent nine years in Selah, WA and two years in Issaquah SD. I went into education because I love learning and I love helping students learn new things.
D’Arcy: I am a library assistant at West Valley Junior High in Yakima, Washington. I love finding books for students and turning them on to reading! This is a perfect age for kids to discover reading a book for entertainment!
D’Arcy: We have about 850 students at our junior high in the 7th & 8th grades. We have a pretty large library with about 15,000 books and four computer labs for students to use.
Right now we are in the process of genre-fying our fiction section in our library! This is a huge project and will probably take a couple of months for us to finish. If you don’t know what it means to genre-fy here goes: we are taking all of our fiction books and categorizing them as to a genre and then putting stickers on them so the patrons will know what kind of book they are. Afterwards we will put them in specially marked areas in the library. It will be kind of like being at a bookstore. Our genres are: adventure, classics, fantasy (sub-genres of fantasy are-paranormal romance; animal fantasy; dystopian & post apocalyptic; mythology; fairytales; mermaids, witches & fae; and dragons), Holocaust, sports, scary, science fiction, mystery, and historical fiction. I’m super excited about this project! I think it will make it easier for students to find books they like and they may even find books that they’ve never seen before and check them out.
What Do You Love Best About Your Work?
Heidi: The thing I love most about my work is helping connect students to the right book. I also love that there are students in this school who may have no other place where they feel completely “safe” or at home except for in the library. Students know they can come in the library before or after school or at lunchtime and they will be welcomed and offered a cozy place where they are truly accepted. They can pick a quiet corner to read, get that homework finished, or just relax with some friends. I definitely have a core group of kids I get to know well as they are our “regulars”. I love that these kids love our library.
D’Arcy: One of my favorite things is a student who is sooooo excited about a book that they are literally jumping up and down and squealing about it. I got this reaction last year when I dressed up as Effie Trinket (from The Hunger Games) too.
A Lion’s Pride of Programs
D’Arcy: We are really trying to make our library a place where students love to come. I am doing a weekly art class with some students after school.
We also run contests and have raffles for different things. Every year we have a book drive and have students donate new or gently used books. We then have a party with prizes for everyone that has donated books.
Heidi: We try to have as many events and programs for students as we can. We want them all to know the library is the best place to be. We offer after school programs during the week. On Monday we host an art club. Thursdays we have a book club. The students in book club have become the reading advocates for our school. They help promote happenings in the library by making posters, talking to classes, and doing book talks.
During the holiday season we have a community service project book drive. Students donate picture books, chapter books, non-fiction, and appropriate YA books. We then have a celebration with all the students who donated. Local businesses donate door prizes and treats, and it’s a celebration of books and giving. Students also get new books of their own. The donated books then go to three or four local outreach services for children, youth, and families.
We celebrate several times throughout the year with special events for students and teachers to participate in. We enjoy Banned Books Week, Teen Read Week, Teen Tech Week, Dr. Seuss Week, and National Library Week. Last year, with the release of the Hunger Games movie, we celebrated with a week-long trivia tournament, prizes, and just overall Hunger Games mayhem. We even had a staff team competing against kids in our trivia challenge.
A Mighty Roar for Libraries!
Heidi: Libraries are vital to a healthy school. We are quite literally the center of the learning universe here. Because we service every student at WVJH, we have to be ready for each individual who walks through our door…from our most hard-working Special Education kiddo to our highly capable students, we need to have the right materials and the right information that fits their needs. We help students with research, homework, finding books, and even some life skills. Teachers look to us as a partner and resource. If we were not here, there would be a giant void in the school, and in the lives of all who learn and work here.
D’Arcy: Libraries are so important in schools because the librarian is a great resource to teach research skills. Also, because we are one of the few places in the school where students can come together to study, read books, or just hang out with friends.
Readers Roar: (Let’s hear from the kids!)
Alicia, 8thgrade says: “This library has amazing books that I love to read. Where the Red Fern Grows would be one of my favorites. I love coming to the library to find new books I can read and be absorbed into another imaginary world.”
Jessica, 8thgrade says: “I love going to my school’s library because it has a large selection of books, all of which I enjoy!”
Heidi: We promote the Evergreen Book Award nominees and also the YALSA Teen’s Top Ten. So, those have been our hottest books. At the beginning of the year I was able to do book talks with all 7th grade language arts classes. The result? Our hottest books were (and actually continue to be) Matched by Ally Condie, Bruiser by Neal Shusterman, and A Monster Callsby Patrick Ness. Students seem to be spreading these books through word-of-mouth. Divergent by Veronica Roth has also been big. I get the ball rolling in the fall, and do more book talks throughout the year, but kids keep it going by talking to each other and passing around the books.
D’Arcy: I’d also add The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. These are all award winning books that we have book talked this year and the kids just really love them. Two of these are dystopian and that is a really popular genre right now and another is just a wonderful tearjerker.
Author! Author! Describe the perfect author visit from a librarian’s point of view.
Heidi: The perfect author visit would be from an author who is well-known and has some great books, but is also well-spoken and can relate to teens. The author would be well-prepared to share with students and teachers about a certain topic or area that has previously been decided upon. Also, student questions would have been written down ahead of time, and the author would have had a little time to peruse those so as to answer them without feeling too “on the spot”. The students will also have time to speak to the author one-on-one (if time) and get books signed.
To me, this would be the perfect author visit.
D’Arcy: The only author we’ve been able to have at our school is a local author, Chris Weedin. He actually works in our school district so we have easy access to him. It’s wonderful when he comes in and talks to the students. They are always very receptive to him and want to check out his books for quite a while afterwards. We would love to be able to have more authors come here or have some Skype visits.
Visit our West Valley Junior High Library Website
Thank you Heidi and D’Arcy for working on this interview together and letting LL readers know about your terrific programs at the West Valley Junior High School Library!
Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.
Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Email Janet on the Contact page on this website for an interview.